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How We Travel Now: Working Remotely

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Juan Clavier left Montreal for British Columbia three months ago – and never returned. His job is still in Montreal, but he discovered that he didn’t need to be. “My girlfriend and I wanted to take a vacation, and I thought that if I was going to travel west, why not stick around?” Clavier has been renting Airbnb accommodations across the province while continuing to work as a manager at a renewable‑energy company. He has travelled to Revelstoke, Powell River on the Sunshine Coast, and stayed at a cabin near Fairmont Hot Springs. Now, he’s working remotely from Tofino, with no plans to return to his company’s premises any time soon.

Being a digital nomad once meant being self‑employed, and few companies allowed remote working before Covid‑19 hit. But with millions now working from their living rooms and basements, cabin fever has set in and many are craving an escape.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky says that travelling and living are starting to “blur together” as more people are booking rental properties for weeks – or even months – at a time, while AllTheRooms, an aggregator of vacation‑market rental data, found that the average length of a stay in vacation accommodation increased by 18 percent in the first half of 2020. Platforms catering to remote workers, like NomadX (which offers month‑to‑month accommodation for remote workers in Portugal, where U.S. and Canadian citizens can stay up to 90 days without a visa), are gaining momentum. Dave Williams, the company’s CEO, says he has already seen booking requests double. “We expect the number to be 10 times above what it was before the pandemic as a result of many companies going remote, including Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter,” he says.

December 7, 2020
People lounging outdoors at the Secret Garden Lisbon
   Photo: Selina Secret Garden Lisbon

Hybrid‑style accommodations are helping, too. Secret Garden Lisbon, located in the city’s trendy Cais do Sodré neighbourhood, is one example of the cross between boutique‑style hotel and co‑working space. Marina Iakovleva, a Torontonian who runs the YouTube channel Dating Beyond Borders, met like‑minded people there during a three‑month stay in 2019, many of whom became friends. “A lot of people are over 30,” she says. “They’ve realized money’s not everything and want a simpler life – you can go surfing or watch the sunset while having a beer on the beach.”

The “bleisure” lifestyle has even created a new category of nomad. Therese Mascardo, a clinical psychologist from Los Angeles, spent three months in Lisbon and says she’s transitioned from “nomad to slowmad.” After returning to L.A., she applied for a Portuguese remote‑work visa so she can go back for months‑long stints. “Everything’s better for me here,” she says. “Lisbon has a quicksand effect: People like me, who plan to travel around, find the city so intoxicating that they never want to leave.”

A woman working on a laptop from a windowsill in a pink and beige Swedish building
   Photo: Catharina Short Sundberg

From niche to normal

  • Approximately 40 percent of Canadians are in jobs they can do from home.

  • A survey of company leaders in HR, legal, finance and real estate sectors, by research firm Gartner, revealed that 82 percent of them plan to permit flexible remote‑working arrangements after office life returns.

  • Some hotels, like Ontario’s Great Wolf Lodge and Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, are offering “schoolcations” for families who want to embark on working vacations, featuring tutors and partnerships with museums.

  • Countries including Bermuda, Barbados, Estonia and Georgia have launched 12‑month remote‑working visas to appeal to the burgeoning “bleisure” crowd.